BOSTON – There’s a running office joke around Wrigley Field whenever the Cubs kick around a new idea: When did the Red Sox start doing that?
The Cubs have a Boston complex, but they can get the sweep after Tuesday’s night 2-1 victory at Fenway Park, and this was the series to circle on the calendar.
Theo Epstein’s front office needs to build the perfect scouting-and-player-development machine with the next Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Crane Kenney’s business operations department watches NESN, the regional cable network, and wants Fenway Park’s wall-to-wall advertising.
The Ricketts family hopes to modernize an iconic stadium without changing its character and losing the atmosphere.
“This place has had a full makeover. This is what I hope Wrigley is in five years,” Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said. “This is like an awesome brownstone that’s been totally renovated, and they’ve been able to do that already. And we haven’t had that chance yet.”
In front of another sellout crowd, Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Luis Valbuena beat dominant Red Sox closer Koji Uehara, manufacturing a run in the ninth inning with a single, a double and a sacrifice fly. Edwin Jackson kept his team in the game for six innings, and Hector Rondon showed no fear of the Green Monster, notching his 11th save.
“As a young team, it’s just nice to come in here in this atmosphere,” Rizzo said afterward inside the cramped visiting clubhouse. “We know we can compete with anyone. It’s a big confidence-builder for everyone on our team.”
The Cubs want to make their pitch to the Chicago Landmarks Commission on July 10 and finally green-light the $575 million Wrigleyville project. They dream the business/baseball plans will come together like it did at Fenway Park, where the Red Sox have won three World Series titles in the last 10 years.
But Cubs executives Epstein, Hoyer and Jason McLeod know they can’t copy-and-paste what they did in Boston, putting the finishing touches on Dan Duquette’s roster in 2004, and reshaping the team for another championship in 2007.
Duquette, the former Boston GM who now runs the Orioles, drafted Nomar Garciaparra, traded for Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe, and signed Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon.
“We inherited something very different when we all got to Boston,” Hoyer said. “A lot of great players were already there and the farm system wasn’t very strong. That’s why we took a lot of pride in what we built in ’07.
“But those two processes will never be the same. There’s a different CBA, a different ability to hoard draft picks, a different free-agent landscape and a ton more talent available on the free-agent market back then. And we just inherited a ton of talent here. Dan Duquette deserves a lot of credit for a lot of things that happened in ’04.”
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The Cubs lead the league in artistic renderings, but over the years they’ve visited Fenway Park, consulted with Boston officials and come up with their take on remodeling a ballpark with 100-years-and-counting history.
The Red Sox built seats on top of the Green Monster and covered that area with advertisements. They close down part of Yawkey Way on game days. They put a bar underneath the center-field bleachers and two big video boards on top. The John Hancock signature frames the Boston skyline, with Budweiser, New Balance, Bank of America and Coca-Cola signs in lights.
“From a team standpoint, obviously, we’re in very different places,” Hoyer said. “(But) this was a place that had the narrative of being unable to win, had the narrative of having the curse.
“When you watched the (Red Sox) last year, the last thing in the world you were thinking about was a curse. It was they had gotten past it, they were the best team, and were going to win the World Series.
“I still look at this place as the perfect blueprint for what we’re trying to do. We want to build a team with great homegrown players that can sort of climb that mountain and defeat that narrative and really bring something that makes Chicago very proud for a long time.”
“The narrative” now is that the Cubs (36-46) are a last-place team getting ready to trade away 40 percent of their rotation, while waiting for all the prospects to develop and the big-market resources to start kicking in again.
Hoyer thought about the future after attending a reunion for the 2004 team in late May.
“After all that’s happened, you sometimes forget just how monumental that team was for the city, for the culture here, and for the organization to break through,” Hoyer said. “We want to build that team. They call them here ‘The 25’ – the guys that won the first one. We want to build ‘The 25’ in Chicago.”